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Deep Thought: Internet paywall edition

Feb 1, 2011, 8:49 AM EDT

Image (1) Money%20Bag.jpg for post 4218

In the wake of Rob Neyer’s announcement that he’s leaving ESPN yesterday, I’ve encountered a good dozen or more people on Twitter, on various message boards and in comments sections saying something to the effect of “I used to read Neyer all the time, but since he’s been behind a paywall, I haven’t read him in years.”

Which is crazy, because Rob’s time behind ESPN’s Insider paywall was relatively brief and ended years ago. His blog went behind the paywall in 2004.  It was out and free again no later than 2007 and may have been out as earlier.  It’s been free ever since.

There are an increasing number of media outlets looking to put sports content behind paywalls these days. Newsday has done it for a good year or more. The Dallas Morning News will be doing it soon.  That’s their prerogative, of course, and I wish them well. But they should look at the Neyer example and realize that once you go pay, people move on and it’s very, very hard to get them back.

Neyer’s brand was ultimately too strong to kill, but I don’t think that applies to everyone.  There are just too many choices out there.

UPDATE:  Paywalls kill, yo.

  1. Lukehart80 - Feb 1, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Now the question is, will Neyer’s new locale involve a paywall?

  2. Brian - Feb 1, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    no, the real question is, is Rob Neyer in the best shape of his life?

  3. Jeremiah Graves - Feb 1, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    I’ve had Neyer bookmarked for years, but I avoid most of ESPN because I find their coverage to often be pretty “meh” and because the bulk of what’s worth reading is behind the aforementioned paywall.

    Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

    • baseballstars - Feb 1, 2011 at 9:25 AM

      Completely agree. ESPN was doing well until they went behind the paywall, then I started browsing other sports sites (like Yahoo Sports). There’s so much free content out there that there’s not a good reason to pay for material you can get for free.

  4. Jonny 5 - Feb 1, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Keith Law….

    I refuse to pay ESPN, when they are already a billion dollar industry who has a stranglehold on sports in this country.

  5. baseballstars - Feb 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    I completely agree with the commenters. I used to read him, then tuned out once I had to pay to read an opinion. I didn’t even know his work was free the past few years, I never bothered to check (which is my own fault, but I think it’s understandable).

    • sknut - Feb 1, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      I agree, I had no idea he was free and its not like ESPN did him any favors. I hardly ever heard him on any of their programming. The world wide leader really only cares about Football and the rest is filler.

      • baseballstars - Feb 1, 2011 at 1:20 PM

        When it come to television broadcasts of sporting events, I love ESPN. When it comes to television analysis, they are meh. When it comes to online coverage of sporting events, I love ESPN3. When it comes to written analysis on the internet, I find ESPN lacking. Their free content is so mediocre that there’s no way I’d pay and risk getting the same mediocre content. And in my opinion, I wouldn’t pay just to hear someone else’s opinion, or scoops that quickly spread across the internet as soon as they are released.

  6. thelucasjj - Feb 1, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I have only been reading Neyer for the last couple years and enjoy his writings as well as some other Sweet Spot Blogs. Outside of that though I ignore ESPN’s baseball coverage. As others have said, the good stuff is all pay for items. Many baseball blogs provide better insight and for free. Even a large outfit such as SI provides good coverage and free.

    Speaking of SI Craig’s earlier twitter post about this is on the main MLB page because it was retweeted by Cliff Corcoran.

  7. trevorb06 - Feb 1, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Well each owe Craig $15 for reading this now.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM

      Check’s in the mail…

  8. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 1, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    If I can easily find free porn online, why the hell would these sites expect me to pay for non-porn? Silly suits.

  9. Ari Collins - Feb 1, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    I even subscribed to ESPN Insider and Baseball Prospectus for a while, but sites like Fangraphs have made paying for this stuff seem unnecessary.

  10. dwrek5 - Feb 1, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Uh… its $5 a month to be an insider in all sports. I understand theres a ton of free stuff out there to be able to pass on the pay stuff, but its $5…

    • JBerardi - Feb 1, 2011 at 10:22 PM

      It’s $0 a month to read better sites.

  11. JB (the original) - Feb 1, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    dwrek5: That cuts both ways…. It’s only $5, so they wouldn’t miss it much if they stopped charging and were free like most everyone else…..

  12. xmatt0926x - Feb 1, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    I guess I’ll also jump on the bandwagon. Its to the point that I dont even bother looking at espn’s site anymore since any item with immediate relevance will be an “insider” article. It just seems like there’s too much competition out there to actually pay for this stuff. Somehow, some way the other websites seem to get by without charging fans along with the advertising revenue they get. Anybody willing to buy into espn’s money-whore ways needs to be slapped. Its like a cell phone carrier charging $20 more a month when there are 4 other companies just dying to get you as a customer. It makes no sense.

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